I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories... water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
If you have a pair of huge beautiful wings, most of the wingless creatures try to cut them. They won't steal them from you for themselves; this is the weirdest part. They either will think those wings are not real or be jealous of them. Long long time ago they had a similar ones, maybe even more colourful and bigger, but now it is all over.
You will be on the road, meeting people and everyone will tell you, that hitchhiking (and even traveling!) is dangerous. Why? Because last week they killed and raped a girl like you. They showed it on TV. You want to go to another country? This is even worse. Have you watched the TV? They are bombing that place(the whole country?). These people are so dangerous! They will cut your lungs away and sell them on a black market where everyone sells people's organs. If you go to that country, they will sell you for camels to a guy who will use you as a slave. They will cut you in pieces. Oh, it starts seeming there are so many greedy wolves waiting for you out there with their horrifying plans! Just stay home forever, nothing feels better.
Life from the box
In every new country where I travel by hitchhiking, I meet people who tell me the same things every day. I think it is a good exercise for the tolerance.
"Here, it's not the same as in other countries! It is very dangerous, last month there was a story..."
"You are a girl alone, it is not good for you traveling like this because there are lots of bad men here in this country." (The "it's not good for you" will start to feel especially irritating after a while)
"You don't know how dangerous it is, because you are young and naive. Believe me please, I am older and I know what I say."
"I will pay you a bus, but please, don't do that!"
"Never hitchhike at night!"
"There is no hitchhiking in this country!" (That would be really mean if they wouldn't actually believe what they say! No hitchhiking should literally refer to no thumbs and no vehicles in this country!)
It is important to admit that all of the people that warn you in this way, have never hitchhiked themselves and the image of the world they have in their mind is created by mass-media brainwashing and common social stereotypes. Most of them watch the TV every day and believe every single word that they hear from that "magic box". They probably never go abroad because they are scared of terrorists and they don't trust strangers because they remember that horror stories on a criminal TV programmes. How can they really know what is happening outside the boxes?
The only stories about hitchhikers that they get to hear are the criminal ones. Of course! Is there a lot of information about lonely females traveling the world by themselves without any bad experiences? I actually don't know, because I haven't watched TV for more than ten years.
If you really want to know about cooking, you would ask the chef, right? Same here, so if you want to know about hitchhiking, ask the hitchhiker. That is the only one who knows what's happening out there, in the melting pot of life, on the road. And once you are there, you will get so excited and realize everything people told you about the world was a lie. And the saddest part is that so many people are already dead in front of their TV boxes without even knowing that. I prefer to live before dying.
We women are perceived as vulnerable creatures that need protection in most of societies. We are depicted this way in literature, art and cinema. And yes, we definitely are physically weaker than men in most cases but this doesn't mean that being brave and going for solo hitchhiking adventure ( same as any other kind of adventure) witnesses madness or irresponsibility for our life. Our strong connection to the intuitive, unknown and mysterious part of life in many cases can be the most valuable weapon, answer and the remedy to men's occasional intention of violence. It is not about the physical strength but the intuition and mind. It's about psychological power; the one that can deal with almost every case. There is a witch living in every woman, but some are lethargically asleep.
Most of the people think that when you hitchhike, since its the driver is the one who is choosing you, it's like playing a roulette with the death. Actually, it is a myth. Hitchhiking is an art and a study, it is not just your thumb and all the hungry maniacs stopping by your side just to get you into their deadly car. Sometimes I refuse couple of rides, other times even more than ten cars stopping by get my polite refusal. And actually It is not because I think they are killers, lung-sellers or camel exchangers. It is just their vibe that I don't like and I simply don't feel like spending my time in their car. And since I actually enjoy being on the road and choosing the ride, I don't mind at all waiting for the better one.
When the car stops next to me and there are neither women nor children on board, I start the conversation with a driver to have at least a short opportunity to observe his behaviour. Sometimes I get a feeling that I trust them just after a few seconds and I just know that I will feel comfortable in their car. But other times they are observing me too much, smiling in a flirty way, trying to convince me to go with them and the worst sign - they seem nervous. I ask them where they go, and if the answer is "where do YOU go?" I don't usually talk to them anymore. Every girl can distinguish the guy that is trying to hit on her and the one who wants to help. And even so, not all the drivers that feel attracted to a girl they are giving a ride are actually rapists nor killers. Its usually girl's behaviour that is programming the scenario and influencing the driver's reactions.
The lie is the currency of this world. Unfortunately it is and when hitchhiking as a solo female you will have to lie. Most of the people don't have the same mindset as you do and most probably they are more traditional than you think. In this case it's you - the open minded one, and it's your responsibility to be tolerant and adapt yourself and your behaviour to the entire pallete of situations.
When hitchhiking with truck drivers or older men, especially in Muslim countries - never tell them that you hitchhike alone because you like adventure and freedom, or anything like that. If you say this in a Muslim country - most probably the driver will take it as a green light for sexual offers. Which absolutely doesn't mean that they are bad people, perverts or again - rapists or killers. It is just a cultural difference and in Muslim societies women are not seen as a self-sufficient creatures with opinions, decisions or any kind of independence. Most of the Muslim girls live and depend on their parents until they get married and then they rely (by all means) on their husband - the one who protects her and makes all the decisions. The people used to this kind of life are having a really hard time and a strong cognitive dissonance as they face a girl traveling by herself. And the estimate time of the ride will not be enough to solve this dilemma or change the mindset that was there much longer as your, as a female hitchhiker, existence. So in this case lie is the only solution: both for their mind tranquility and your safety.
I usually say that I'm married and show them pictures of my (nonexistent) children. I also say I've got twins and my husband is a Muslim. I don't usually hitchhike, but since people are so kind here, I trust them and today I was in rush, so now I'm here, and my husband will pick me up in the next city. Once the driver knows this, he starts seeing you as a sister and wants to help; you are a family woman and your husband is "one of them", so they want to show you the best. If you are a girl traveling alone just for traveling, they may think you are a prostitute, or you don't mind having sex since you are not in the kitchen. Because in their value system there are two kinds of women. And, as you may guess, non of these kinds is a backpacker or traveler. If I still feel weird with a driver I would call any of my local friends or couchsurfers and just ask them to explain the driver to drop me off at the gas station before the city entrance. These are the extreme cases, though. Every situation is different and sometimes it is enough to behave cool, stay calm and strong as a big stable tree and tell them firmly where you are going to.
For the beginners it is better to go with females, couples or families just to become familiar with the road and ensure yourself that it is full of normal people and not every driver is a creepy killer, as someone have warned you; I would even say that the creepy guys are the minority and the more you travel the easier it becomes to deal even with them.
The hitchhiking letter is helpful in the countries where people are not familiar with the concept. You can ask someone to write it in local language for you. It is good to mention your interest in their culture and that you travel without money, so they realize you are not looking for the taxi. I usually write that I don't like public transport and go everywhere by walking and if they could give me a ride it would be very kind of them. Sometimes trying to explain the concept of hitchhiking is useless and pretty much exhausting. People may push you in the bus or train and even try to pay your tickets and give you money. Just be tolerant and persistent, try not to get irritated as they are just kind, protective and concerned about your safety - yes, too much, but we can't help it.
Try not to hitchhike at places in the middle of nowhere and have a map with you. Offline maps is a very good app that will be helpful and the driver will see that you are not lost and you know where you go.
Never be afraid of men. The same with dogs - they can feel the adrenaline and then they may attack you. Your inner strength and balance should fill the air of the car so the driver can smell it instead of your fears.
At night everything usually seems scarier. The mystery of darkness, the silence and the nocturnal animals wake up and do their business; but it doesn't mean that since the color of the sky has changed, now everyone is a criminal. Sometimes you can meet a friendly truck driver who will let you borrow his comfy bed while driving all night towards your destination. At night most people will offer you to stay at their home and will not let you stay outside. Just choose your rides carefully and stand in a place where the drivers can see you.
I am not saying that hitchhiking is absolutely safe, but it is just as safe as getting on the bus or train or even staying home. You can be raped and killed everywhere.
While hitchhiking, you meet all kinds of people and get to know their opinions about life, culture, philosophy, religion and politics or anything else you are interested in. You will have an opportunity to see the country from many different perspectives and get inspired by the beauty of spontaneous way of living. You will be surprised how people will try to show you the best parts of their country, city or village. Since you will face lots of kindness, it will be easier to recognise the people with bad intentions.
Lone wolf's path
Why alone? You will be asked this question very, very often. It is so hard for people to believe that someone can be happy on their own!
So first you should find the answer for yourself. Its not better, it's just different and it depends on your goals. Hitchhiking solo is a pilgrimage to your inner Mecca. It is an opportunity to encounter so many unknown personalities that were sleeping within yourself and because of the boarders, built by your dear family and friends without you even noticing that, they may have never woke up. And if you want to find yourself, you need to get lost first. And then, in the middle of challenges, dangers and fears, being brave and creative will be your only way to exist. You will struggle sometimes, your heart will beat like crazy, but you will feel alive. And even when you will get sick or will miss someone and there'l be no one there for you - you will learn from that. And realize how beautiful your endless wild soul is.